A few weeks back, we reported on a cutting-edge Maryland law that protects employees and job applicants from having to reveal their Facebook, Twitter, or other social media passwords to employers.  On August 1, Illinois Governor  Pat Quinn signed a similar bill into law. As of January 1, 2013, employers in Illinois, like those in Maryland, will not be able to request or require prospective or current employees to provide access to their social media accounts.

This is an important piece of legislation as it is becoming increasingly common for employers and their HR departments to snoop into employees’ and prospective employees’ lives by accessing their online activities. According to one estimate reported in the Washington Post, “75 percent of employers require their human resources departments to look at online profiles before offering an applicant a job, and … a third of employers have turned down applicants based on those searches.”  Expect to see more states and even the federal government take on this issue soon.

Hold That Tweet…

Before you get too bold about what you post on your Facebook page, however, there are a few important caveats:

  1. Nothing prohibits an employer from viewing a social media page to the extent that it is publicly accessible.
  2. Employers can monitor  employees’ use of its computers, phones and other devices (so no bashing your boss from your work computer!)
  3. Employers can still impose reasonable policies governing social media use on work time.
  4. Although a number of states and Congress are considering similar bills, at this time only Maryland and Illinois specifically provide these protections.

You can read the text of the Illinois bill here.